It’s Time For The Left To Build A New Narrative
It’s hard to tell what scares me most these days. Trump’s non-stop attacks on the media are up there. So is the risk of losing my healthcare. But my biggest fear right now may be that the left is still playing into Trump’s hands and it’s going to cost us in 2018, 2020 and maybe even beyond.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, many of us felt like a Band-Aid had been torn off of a sore we didn’t realize was festering in this country. Underneath were many people who were legitimately angry about the economy as they were experiencing it. Overall employment numbers may look good but there are still too many people who are under-employed or working without benefits. Those people are scared and angry and they voted for Trump.
We knew that if the Democratic party was going to pick itself up and put itself back together after this terrible loss, it was going to have to find those people, talk to them and offer them real solutions.
While I hope and believe that there are people at high levels of the Democratic party who are preparing to do that, I worry that the left will remain so caught up in the never-ending maelstrom that is the Trump presidency, that reaching out with compassion and understanding will continue to take a back seat until we suddenly find ourselves in 2018 without a strong message or a reason for any of these people to vote for progressives.
And yet it’s hard not to feel like we’re engaged in a war that we have to win. Trump is terrifying and his non-stop attacks can’t go unanswered. It’s not OK to keep refugees out of this country. It’s not OK to allow coal companies to pollute our waterways with no repercussions. And it’s not OK to constantly undermine our democracy by telling lies about voter fraud.
Trump would like the American people to loose faith in the media and the democratic process so he can do whatever he likes. How can we not rail against that at every chance we get?
A controversial article in this weekend’s New York Times titled “Are Liberals Helping Trump?”suggested that the left’s new found political activism risks turning off the people in the middle who we’ll need to attract. It talked to some voters who said they felt attacked and judged by the left.
There’s plenty to debate about the article (a few voters don’t really indicate a trend, at least one person interviewed had been interviewed by the paper before and seems to be the kind of hard-core Trump voter who was never going to change his mind anyway). But it does point to something that we on the left have to start seriously discussing.
If we can’t adjust our message away from “anyone who voted for Trump is an idiot who gets what they deserve,” we’ll never take back to House and Senate let alone the White House.
Very soon, the left needs to start adjusting its message and its focus. It needs to ask again and again if Trump is actually helping the people who voted for him. He promised to drain the swamp but he’s replaced it with Wall Street. Is that really what these people wanted to see? There’s a huge risk that in their fumbling to replace the ACA the Republicans will kick millions of people off of their health care coverage. Didn’t Trump’s voters want better health care?
We need to resist the urge to retreat back into our own bubbles. We need to take the concerns of people who voted for Trump seriously but offer better solutions.
I’ll be watching with interest to see who wins the contest to next lead the DNC. Although he seems like a bit of a long shot, I’m hoping South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg gets it. He’s not a Hillary guy or a Bernie guy. He lives in the mid-west where he’s seen first-hand to difficulties people in small towns are having. And he seems to really understand that the only way to win going forward is to rise above the noise and send a message of hope and inclusion to people who feel shut out of government.
I’m a huge fan of the Indivisible movement and this week I’ll be at a town hall along with my fellow District 30 voters to encourage our Congressman (Brad Sherman) to stall the Trump agenda. That’s my small part to play. But I hope that while we’re stalling, smart people at higher levels are coming up with ways to really reach out and appeal to the middle so we can start taking back Congressional seats. It’s the only way we’ll win going forward.